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The ripple effect

Written in April 2020.

On New Year's Eve, we went for a walk on our local beach and were struck by the amount of litter blowing about. We grabbed a bag and picked it up.

This was the start of a family project for 2020. Rather than set a New Year's Resolution, we pledged to collect (or inspire others to collect) 2020 bags of litter from around the world by the end of the year. Maybe we could make a small difference, teach our kids (Poppy, 8 and Toby, 5) a few life lessons and inspire others to get involved too.

We set up an Instagram account (@just1bag2020) and asked people to collect a bag and tag us so we could add it to the count. Through January, it was slow-going. We managed to get about 100 bags (us plus a few family members we managed to persuade to get involved), getting out every day, no matter what the weather was like (-17 Celsius was our coldest collection - that was a quick one!). We just started to form the habit of grabbing a bag and filling it whether we were out at the supermarket, exploring the National Parks or out on a run (plogging, I've since learned this is called). In February, things started picking up. People started getting involved, telling their friends, collecting a bag and tagging us. Keep Mass Beautiful got in touch to ask if they could share our story. So did a few local organizations and bloggers. The total kept ticking up...

People started collecting bags all around the world. Some were doing it already (there's a whole 'trashie' community, we've learned). Others collected a bag for the first time. They're the ones we get most excited about. 20 families from our local community have been out collecting with their kids. Sarah met the State Senator who tweeted his support. And now, we've had bags collected across 22 different countries - Austria, Poland, Russia, Germany, the UK, 15 different US states, Italy, Spain, Norway, India, Canada, Australia, The Seychelles - across 6 continents (still waiting for a bag from Antarctica!).

People at work started to help out too. Thanks to all of the C Spacers (and their families) who've been getting involved... Dan, Andrea, Larry, Isabel, Sarah M, Steff, Aidan, Jessie, Gilly, Marta... Sarah shared our campaign with her community group so now the residents of Franklin, Mass are getting stuck in too... a real ripple effect! We've been blown away by the support.

During the coronavirus, at a time when so much seems outside of our control, we've found it therapeutic to be able to get out into the fresh air and simply focus on collecting a bag of trash (wearing gloves, maintaining social distance and washing hands thoroughly, of course!!). It's sad to see how many masks and discarded latex gloves are now turning up on the beach and forest paths. Litter tells a story it seems... and it's been tough getting messages from Italian and Spanish collectors who are on total lockdown now, unable to take part for weeks... but equally rewarding getting notes like this one, from a Canadian family inspired to get involved after seeing what we've been up to.

Saturday was Sarah's birthday... and excitingly, we had 74 bags collected from around the world that day, smashing through our 2020 goal nine months early. A great birthday present for her, and second only to the swish new pair of litter pickers she got from the kids. It's taken us just 112 days and more than 180 people have gotten involved!

We figure we can't stop now, so we'll keep on going and have raised our target to 10,000 bags by the end of the year, with the hope that 2020 different people will collect at least one bag each.

Thanks to everyone who has helped out. We've been inspired and humbled by the support, and hopefully all left the world a little bit better along the way.

If you'd like to join in, just collect a bag of litter when you're out and about, take a photo and tag #just1bag2020 on Instagram or in our Facebook group. We promise to count every bag and every collector until we hit our new goal.

And once you've done it, please tell a friend and encourage them to take part too. Keep the ripple effect going. Perhaps it's a small commitment you could make for Earth Day... if everyone who read this did just one bag, imagine the difference we'd make?

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Amazing reading this back seven months later to think how much the ripple effect has continued to grow :)

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